Reading Talking Anarchy

I’m reading a little book called Talking Anarchy which is an extended interview with a guy named Colin Ward, because Danny is obsessed with him right now and made me watch a documentary about New Towns with him in it. This book looked a little boring, but in the good way that’s great once you get into it, like Moby Dick, but much shorter and with more breaks to look up people’s names in Wikipedia. So far I’m enjoying:

– Ward’s comments on cooperatives and anarchasocialism (that having somewhat of a Kropotkin-y socialist bent doesn’t mean you love giant centralized state authorities)

– His strategy for dealing with overly fervent nationalists who won’t listen to any criticisms of their favorite country: mockery is the only thing that works. (For whatever definition of “works”… which I guess is, makes you feel better and they don’t shoot you for it)

– His optimism about not everything being an enormous Ford like conglomerate. Sadly this is the bit where I turned to the front of the book to check the date (2003) Things seem to continue turning more toward enormous conglomerates (agriculture… shipping… etc) This is not the homebrew industrial revolutiony future we had hoped for.

– His description of Marie Louise Berneri‘s outrage at not being jailed for her pacifist crimes because of sexist law that she and her husband were one person and so he went to jail and she didn’t

– So far, his lack of sexist douchery, so rare and precious, that he is a guy who doesn’t discount women automatically on every possible ground and instead whole heartedly appears to have engaged with women anarchists and describes them with respect as important in the movement and in public discourse

– For example I really want to know more about Lilian Wolfe who ran the Freedom Press office for 25 years and sounds like a great person. I will just quote this bit, because I really liked it.

In 1943, Lilian Wolfe, who had been running a food shop in Stroud, Gloucestershire, abandoned it at the age of sixty-seven, in order to manage the office of Freedom Press in London. She died at ninety-eight in 1974, and Nicolas Walter explained how “For more than twenty-five years Lilian Wolfe was the centre of the administration of Freedom Press at its various premises in London. She was the person on whom every organization depends — the completely reliable worker who runs the office, opening and closing the shop, answering the telephone and the post, doing accounts and keeping people in touch. She maintained personal contact with the thousands of people who read the paper…” This was certainly true in my case. When I wrote, obscurely, from a military address, she would reply and would send me copies of journals from overseas, like La Protesta from Buenos Aires and L’Adunata from New York.

Ward talks about Wolfe a lot throughout the interviews but hasn’t gotten to the part where she goes to prison in 1916 for being a pacifist anarchist along with the Freedom Press folks. (She did not just pop up whole and pure out of the food shop in Stroud, obviously). I’d like to read a whole biography of her!

Last night reading the introduction I was delightfully derailed by two casual mentions of people (thus the long Wikipedia rabbit hole journey)

– Ward’s English teacher, or maybe just AN English teacher at the high school he went to, was “(…the father of the well-known poet and critic, Kathleen Raine, who was to write venomously and extremely snobbishly of him, the school, and Ilford in her first volume of autobiography, Farewell Happy Fields) ” I am tempted to look for that book! Anyone so venomous as to deserve three adverbs in one sentence must be great.

– Another charmingly parenthetical person, his next door office neighbor’s relative… “Next door to his office, Caulfield — who was brother-in-law to Britain’s solitary Futurist painter, C.R.W. Nevinson — let a flat at 28 Emperor’s Gate to Miron Grindea, the Romanian editor of the long-running little magazine, Adam.” OMG. Britain’s only Futurist painter sounds so very lonely! When I looked him up, he wasn’t really, it was just that he was thrown out of the Vorticists by Wyndham Lewis for writing a manifesto and publishing it all their names without consulting anyone. I like his paintings, but he sounds awfully cranky.

Miron Grindea, also fabulous. He sounds like a kindred spirit.

A connection made, too, where I realized I own a copy of BLAST, the Vorticist magazine. And also I suddenly imagined Nevinson the lonely Futurist as a character in Dance to the Music of Time (which, god knows, he’s probably in there, everyone else is.)

Danny not really obsessed with Colin Ward but, good god, if I find out the revolution I wanted was in my Houston backyard I would also be mad. Actually it sort of was and I was pissed off even in 1986 about not personally being part of the Legion of Doom. You are always just THAT CLOSE to the thing you want and maybe you are even IT — right now.

I’m sure this should be more about my theories of anarchy than about gossip about dead people, but gossip is part of my daily praxis. So there. Office managers of the world, unite.

Specificity in poems and songs

Rambling a bit about songs. The other day someone giggled when I referred to a “mix tape” and I barely even meant “mix CD”, I believe it was a constructed playlist that I’d made. But in my mind and language a personally edited collection of music will always be a mix tape, probably made clunkily from breathless moments trying to catch the beginning of a song from the radio to cassette tape (on a modern gramophone or victrola) without getting a DJ talking, and maybe going from that tape to a second tape for even worse quality sound.

I was thinking about how it is disconcerting in songs when there is a very specific reference clearly personal to the singer. I’ll be happily singing along, or adding the song to a MIX TAPE meant to convey a mood, and then I get jarred by the singer’s reference to their friends or girlfriend or some private joke of the band’s. Sometimes I just edit it out mentally, bracketing the specifics that I will never know about and trying to see it as a charming instance of the mood of the song.

It is a bit like the iconic quality of comics or images that Scott McCloud describes in Understanding Comics. The more generic the image of a person, the easier it is for us to imagine ourselves into that artwork, in some ways. We might encounter the specifics as alienating or difficult as readers or listeners.

Sometimes I like the specifics and sometimes I edit them out when reading or listening. Or when writing.

Other times these details are the entire point especially if that point is the unknowability of the details of another person’s experience. Or, if part of the point is to make you wonder and work to figure those details out, to find them out.

This year I am aiming to put my old poetry books and anthologies from 10-20 years ago up as ebooks or reprint them in paperback. A few of them are up already. The one that led me down this path of thought is Woodbird Jazzophone, which is basically me from 2003 or so rambling in a notebook about lying in a forest meadow watching the birds at a sort of poets’ retreat in a beautiful redwood cabin somewhere probably in Marin. I re-printed it without re-reading it closely, but it does have some obscure specifics that will never merit footnotes – about the history of the cabin that one of the neighbors in the woods explained. Even when I can’t remember those details, I remember the mood of that time.

Echoes in the poem that would not be immediately apparent – I spent long hours wrapped up in blankets on the front porch, in a lot of pain, watching the fog come off the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains some years before that, and watching acorn woodpeckers fly around putting acorns into holes in the trees. They share their caches of acorns, pretty cool cooperative birds. I couldn’t get around very well, and the sound of the neighborhood, birds waking up in the grey morning, people in cars leaving for school and commute, acorns and jays and hawks doing their thing, then cars coming back as people came home. It was an entertaining part of the day, a soundscape to go with the lightscape. I was thinking of those times and the good but bitter memories that can come from physical impairments and pain. Another echo from the woodpeckers goes back to my happy years in cooperative housing. I don’t think any of that would be apparent in the poem, which comes off like someone rambling free form about an afternoon in the woods.

The song earworming me as I write this is Always Give Your Love Away by Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom, an Austin band from the late 80s/early 90s that does that specificity trick pretty well. Though I think that song stays general.

Getting back on the horse

Not heroin but blogging more rather than leaning on Facebook and Slack for all my casual writing, diary, and conversation online. Never mind maneuvers, blog straight at em. The other thing stopping me is a totally mundane task to twiddle the theme of this blog and restore all the images which were lost in a previous theme change early in 2017. Somehow, there is never time!

I started off the holiday break at the end of 2017 working over my vacation. Then spent a few days speed-publishing part of my book backlog to ebook formats, starting with very tiny poetry books from 2000 to about 2005, firing up my most recent press/imprint, Burn This Press. There are more coming – both more tiny books and bigger books and anthologies that didn’t have a wide distribution and never made it to a digital format.

Many other ambitions like traveling for a vacation, or visiting every museum in the San Francisco Bay Area, were shelved for when I feel more mobile and have less pressure at work. I still did some fun things in December though!

Among them, 2 christmases: Fakemas which we hold before the actual holiday, since both kids tend to go on trips to or with other family for Dec. 25. And then actual Christmas with my sister’s family.

Here’s a cute picture of Milo home from university and putting ornaments on our tiny, tiny tree — against a background of bookshelves! It’s on a small end table that’s a solid, heavy tree stump carved and painted to look like a pile of giant books.

putting ornaments on the tree

Informal register

I miss “real blogging” and was thinking that one reason I have been having blog-like posts and conversations on Facebook rather than here is that this blog feels more “formal”. I intended that from the beginning, but what if I were to be a bit more quick and casual in how I post here? It won’t feel like a conversation since comments are rare and our methods to find and consume people’s unmediated or unedited public writing have shifted to happen via tumblr/facebook/twitter/medium. I also use Dreamwidth for informal posting.

Here is a commitment to continue the pleasant ramble of my long posts on a platform which I sort of control (though not with the ideological purity of running my own server under my desk or whatever, since I use a hosting service).

Is this now an actual move of resistance?

I have a feeling the conversations will happen on FB and Twitter. The FB conversations especially will be lost in the mists of time and proprietary control and unsearchability and crap API. Alas. The Twitter stuff is at least reachable and searchable and I believe it has more chance to be archived for the future.

This, also, because I am increasingly annoyed at which people and posts Facebook shows me and doesn’t show me, even on the “See all” setting.


Unruly Islands will blow your mind, so buy it

If you don’t really like poetry because it usually sucks and is embarrassing, buy my latest book of poems, Unruly Islands. Buy some extra copies for your friends and one for your giant robot. It goes well in hackerspaces! Poems about the moon landing, modem noises, the dotcom crash, seasteading, surly teenage embezzlers, San Francisco alternate future geographies, and the history of utopianism from the Whole Earth Catalog through Riot Grrrl to Burning Man.

Also fits perfectly into your #Occupy library tent! Or — donate one to your local library for mega subversive pleasure!

Buy Unruly Islands from Aqueduct Press directly if you like supporting small, incredibly intellectual feminist science fiction publishers. Or buy Unruly Islands it’s $12.00 and 96 pages of a weird trip through my brain.

The book has a gorgeous cover by an artist and hacker I met at Noisebridge, Meredith Scheff aka ladycartoonist.

Book cover for Unruly Islands

Here’s the book description and fabulous blurbs.

Unruly Islands collects 36 poems suffused with science fiction, revolution, and digital life on the edge.

Annalee Newitz, editor of i09, says of the collection: ”Liz Henry’s poetry is always moving, funny, and weird, regardless of whether she’s flying us on a rocketship through a science-fictional social revolution or telling us a wry story about being an adolescent embezzler. This collection is like a monster cyborg mashup of Walt Whitman, Joanna Russ, and the internet. Which is to say: Fuck yeah!”

Daphne Gottlieb, author of 15 Ways to Stay Alive, Why Things Burn, and Final Girl, writes: ”With all the awe and shiny of Barbarella, the breathless curiosity of Robert Hayden’s American Journal, and the dismal, too-real fluorescent sheen of the corner store, Liz Henry takes the world (and the otherword) and makes it ours in all of its signal and noise, its glorious classwar and cussmouth. She takes the unknowable along with the familiar and shows us how, incontrovertibly, the future is here, and the future is us.”

And Maureen Owen, author of Imaginary Income and Zombie Notes, observes, ”Liz Henry’s protean, phantasmagorical images slingshot us out and boomerang us back simultaneously over multiple plains in all directions. Immediate, futuristic, subliminal. An intimate, wild ride through a surrealistic mind field.”

Photo of Liz Henry

I’ll be reading this month in San Francisco at Writers With Drinks on May 12, Red Hill Books in Bernal Heights May 18, and at the feminist science fiction convention in Madiscon, Wisconsin, WisCon later in May.

Kandila – bilingual poetry book

My friend ephemere is taking pre-orders for a calligraphy poembook. Here’s her description of the project:

calligraphy poembook

Kandila will be a little book rendered completely, from the title page to the very last leaf, in calligraphy. It will feature three of my (rather long!) bilingual love poems to my country, the Philippines, rendered in different calligraphic styles, as well as a few pages of baybayin calligraphy and “playing around with letters” calligraphy art. I estimate the approximate length at fifty to sixty calligraphed pages. Each book will be signed.

A .pdf of the entire book will be available for free online. Please note that there will be parts of this book rendered in Filipino, but the translation will not be calligraphed; instead it will be available as a printed sheet accompanying the book, and will also be freely viewable online.

Kandila will be sent out by mid-November. All funds raised will go toward supporting me in the wake of my being terminated from my job, which I lost due to my unwillingness to remain silent about my marginalized identity and beliefs.Details here.

ink and pen drawing of a woman in a lace head scarf
Please support her, buy the book, order her beautiful art, and pass this on if you can!

Recently published poems

At some point this spring while I was sick in bed for weeks I sent out a big batch of poems and this time tracked what I sent to what magazine. I guess about a third of what I sent out got accepted. I should do it more often! Plus Aqueduct Press is going to put out my new book, Unruly Islands; I’ll talk more about that later!

Here are some links to the recently published poems and the journals they’re in, with snippets of the poetry,

cover of stone telling journal

Mother Frankenstein, in Stone Telling, a really great online magazine that publishes “literary speculative poetry with a strong emotional core. I like the other work in this magazine quite a lot and am incredibly honored to have a poem in it, especially this poem which I wrote many years ago and still love. For a while I was reading this dense, ranty poem at open mics and people would just clutch their heads and go WTF!!! Stop it! Too much! Where did that come from! So I’m glad it’s out there; no one ever seemed to want it; too long, too odd, doesn’t fit, etc. Stone telling is the perfect home! Read the rest of their poetry and you’ll see what I mean — and you will probably get sucked into their archives.

stitches straining to burst with the bowling ball weight of the guilt
of futile miscarriages tumbling in cataracts, stochastic tapestry,
I would leap into the night, iridium flash, verso of the meteor’s flight,
unintentional handful of nothing and words and the workbench of memory,
Mary mother of Frankenstein you give me your blackened tooth’s unwatched star,
your handfuls of stigmata, your soldier ants slicing the moon’s andalusian eye,
your body’s machinery in the bonefrost of lost desire and a kiss of loving betrayal,
the memory of your pellucid eggshell trembling in the corpus luteum of my fists

A poem in Our of Our volume 11. I like their magazine, which is kind of old school City Lights-ish. They published “Hard use”, a poem I wrote about how much I loved my pickup truck which sounds like it will be about hound dogs and railroad tracks but is not. I think I have one other poem in there (but cannot remember and the magazine is not in front of me) Here is a little bit of “Hard use”:

rattle up wood-stake spade and rake
shoot that agave smack to the gas can

radio: ay! cumbia!

pop into the dust groove
needle in the cinderblock
gas cap, hubcap, rope
loud hot in the truck bed

I think it is not yet actually printed but I had some translations of fantastic poems by Carmen Berenguer accepted by specs journal for their Fall 2011 issue. I’m so excited about that! I love her work, and some of these were supposed to be in Five Finger Review but the journal sadly folded for lack of funds (or something) before the issue was published. This issue — themed “kaleidoscopic” — sounds well worth reading. Check this out, this was their call for submissions, you could not get more perfect for Berenguer’s work:

specs journal call for subs

This year, specs is working in collaboration with the Florida Studies Initiative at Rollins to support the Alfred J. Hanna Symposium on Florida. The symposium shares the theme of kaleidoscopic point and celebrates critical inquiries that consider the people, places, and events rooted in Florida’s cross-cultural past and transnational reality.

In May, an online zine called O Sweet Flowery Roses published “2 pelican poems”, short funny bits of language about, well, fucking pelicans, what do you expect? Their permalinks are not working so to get to my stuff you need to click on Archives in the sidebar and then May 2011. I submitted to them because I like their taste and their rapid publishing pace. These poems are what I always think of when I look at pelicans flying over the ocean, it’s as if I just summed up all the thoughts about them and can’t really go any further. Notable if you like alchemy and for the funny word “icthyo-athanor”.




A poem I wrote a very long time ago in Blue Lake Review.

I’m missing something here — there was at least one translation published in the summer but I would have to go through my email laboriously to figure it out. I would like to complain that no one ever wants my absolutely kickass translations of Nestor Perlongher; however I have gotten a few nice emails from grad students writing about his work and was happy to hear about their projects & give them some reading recommendations. Annoyingly years ago I sent a batch of them to some dude on the East Coast at his request who did not publish them but then went on to publish his own! So it goes.

My backlog of unpublished work is very very clogged full of translations of Juana de Ibarbourou which I was in theory supposed to publish with Green Integer but somehow that never happened. I should send those out again or re-contact green integer if they’re still around.

I also wish I could “place” my translations of work by David Rosenmann-Taub and a bunch of other interesting, odd, philosophical poets.

Meanwhile I also put out a 3rd tiny book from Burn This Press, moon landing, but that will need to have its own separate post. I’m gearing up to print at least one more Burn This Press book for 2011, plus a reprint of Composite #1, the Baudelaire issue.

Diane di Prima reading for DivaFest

Diane di Prima does one long solo reading per year in San Francisco and for the last 7 years that’s been at DivaFest at the Exit Theater. The little theater was packed with wistful and wild-eyed poets and hardcore di Prima fans as Diane led off just talking about stuff and asking us all for any spare kleenexes before she started out reading. She talked a bit about being the poet laureate of San Francisco saying that she loves the poetry folks of this town and it honors them and it honors poetry. But the parts that are political or B.S. and that it doesn’t have very much money to support her going in to teach poetry writing to kids and so on, that part isn’t so great. It’s nice but the greatest honor she has ever received was knowing someone typed out her first book on carbon paper to pass it around Leavenworth prison.

Diane then said that she is thinking of what’s new, poems as news, poets as antennae and is reading a bunch of unpublished work and the new things that may go into Loba or the next Revolutionary Letters. “A lot of things that are news are very old. They’re new and old at the same time.” I really love poet talk and Diane can’t even help doing it and at the same time is just plain not full of shit. (Reminding me of my friend Greg who died… should be on his grave stone, “He wasn’t full of shit.”) I respect the ability some people have to just talk and then to read their writing in a way that isn’t bullshitty or different than their usual self. Just write it! And then when you’re talking, saying something! That’s so good.

I kept imagining wishfully that Diane would come to WisCon where she would be strangely happy among fantastic strong writer matriarchs in lavender quilted vests and iron grey hair and wild imaginations that range through all time and space!

Diane di Prima reading at DIVAfest.jpg

Notes on the poems!

The first poem was “My Andalusia” which was written as an exploration of writing about things as you imagined them when you were younger. What you thought about Egypt or New York when you were 6. Diane’s Anadalusia was an alternate history coming up to the present and future where sufi and kabalah and christian and scientific communities flourished uninterrupted by war. “to make light brighter, distance more vast.” Maybe it was “vastness more vast.” “And About Obama” “and if you were living in the enemy’s house wife and kids there too guarded by assassins … for what *were* after all dreams …” I slipped in and out of knowing what she was talking about and then felt quite unsure that other people in the room knew either though they “Hmmmmmmmm!”ed as if they did. “At least the Bay Bridge snapped… somebody had to say something”. And then some old news – “a deer and her young hesitate” which I think then had some radioactive waste. It worked even past my reservations. LOTS of hmmmm-ing on that one which reaction made me wince. (Though, I love people who love poetry so should not criticize. )

“Don’t turn away” (with brief explanation of Kurosawa biography and earthquake story and his brother saying, “Don’t turn away – You want to make films, don’t look away – LOOK!” If you are working on something, don’t turn away. Hyena -vulture – guardians – the race of forbidden – where we keep the dead – warm mud – Look, tears magnify what you can see – Don’t look it up don’t study it’s all before your eyes. (Well and yes I suppose Earth is a mass grave, really. ) Diane read this long prose poem so well and powerfully, forceful, the words building up and poem tumbling over itself. Well done and never maudlin / self righteous / guilt ridden-yet-self-absolving which is the trap so many middle class poets fall into automatically.

“The daughter” – couldn’t wait till she died, pulling weeds, “didn’t I think it looked a whole lot better.” Oh my.

Poem for Sheppard, healer & beloved. Treebark rule (an herb tea he makes her) Touch the crown of their heads as they have not been touched since newborn / they are worth all care / they are gold of gold ” Now here I cried at the poem a bit not knowing Shep but knowing he is sick and that she is not perhaps in the pink of health either and knowing what it means to be in pain and cared for (vs. not cared for) and the other way round And that it is one of the best things. Mia Mingus said it very well in Access Intimacy

Access intimacy is also the intimacy I feel with many other disabled and sick people who have an automatic understanding of access needs out of our shared similar lived experience of the many different ways ableism manifests in our lives. Together, we share a kind of access intimacy that is ground-level, with no need for explanations. Instantly, we can hold the weight, emotion, logistics, isolation, trauma, fear, anxiety and pain of access. I don’t have to justify and we are able to start from a place of steel vulnerability.

Interdependence is worth fighting for and certainly good to write about. I liked the poem.

Then a long poem for a benefit for Haiti for which the organizers kept adding on new countries so it is called Haiti Chile Tibet. I cheered mightily at the bit at the end with the list of Just a Few Suggestions. 1) All hands on deck means just that. It’s a really small boat. 2. Anyone bringing help is welcome – OBVIOUSLY. Don’t ask where they’re from. (HHAHAAH so true – thinking bitterly of the red cross during katrina! lord!) 3) All borders disappear in catastrophe. They are stupid and irrelevant anyway. 4) There is no such thing as looting in a disaster. 5 on the police 6) on guests 7) Give up confusing your property with your life. This will save a lot of problems! I like a poem that describes the world with a little lyrical perspective and humility and then ends with practical wisdom!

“Homeland Security to T’ang Dynasty Princess” – short & sweet. take off your dew covered slippers, step away from the window. Funny then not then funny again, indeed

Lot’s wife doesn’t have a name Who was she how did he greet her when she came in from the field?

“Why money makes me feel bad.” I feel bad when I get some . Then feeling bad when not having any. Yup.

War haiku – July 2006. Lebanon. Even an hour of this / would be too long /White phosophorus. Great lords of the sea /it is Tyre they are burning. Don’t ask if I have bad dreams…

Millenium poem. Revolutionary letters # 83. In the wink of an eye. If Iliad Odyssey… harmony.. and Blake says Fuck all this! & Baudelaire & Rimbaud comes back from outer space he’d rather die a sleazebutt human! American cats et in on it (Melville) They don’t know from order! (laughter uncontrollable there!) Brightness fell from the air. magical will…

I like that poem and want to read it on the page! It was tremendous!

June 3 1966 To the unnamed Buddhist Nun who burned herself to death (she called the NY Times and then called the reporter who told her that buddhist nuns don’t have names.) (not) O monk is it hot in there? (koan about it being a stupid question)

Diane noted that part of her wants to apologize for being so dark. She has this bit of Loba *(unpublished) about the painter who painted Mary out of elephant dung (Chris Ofili) (Turmoil!) And thinking all the other things people might not realize are also sacred. Litany – Our lady of the elephants. Our lady of the armadillos. Our lady of subways… Lady of largest heart. (Yes- Inanna reference!!!!! Right on)

Freaking awesome poem called Fire sale – everything must go. I long to publish this one.
Well, we can’t build the new society from the shell of the old” “I love those old Wobbly songs” Let’s stop looking over our shoulders! Let’s stop copying Scandinavian socialism, it’s too sad! You all talk too much!” Oh, man, I love it.

We then had some questions and conversation. Conversation hard though in Authority/Audience format (alas) I asked what Diane is reading and she said lots of Ursula Le Guin (YEAH…. instantly I go back to my WisCon imaginings and pictured them both at the Mad Scientist Otaku Tea Party Cafe laughing over tea with robots and mad scientists serving little cakes) And all of Shakespeare in little Arden editions because you can hold one at a time and they don’t hurt your hands to hold them up. someone asked about plays and Diane said she has some plays one called Whale Hunting about the death of Shelley just before he drowns with Mary Byron and Shelley. Oh man! I’d like to see that play. And another one which I did’t hear about because I was imagining the Shelley one. A very dear woman stood up in the back and said her name is Grace HArwood and she has been witness to Diane’s aweseomness since 1970 and is so happy she is poet laureate and it’s about fucking time! (cheers and applause) Another question , what do you think is possible? Are you writing more memoir? (Yes but slowly and don’t tell anyone, she does not want her agent to know so there is no pressure) It has a lot about the shape of life and the demands of old age and is around 200 pages now. Diane asked us what we are writing and doing and where we published and after what was perhaps not a long enough pause I said I am making tiny books and held up my Burn This Press stuff. (Then wished I hadn’t and that i had explained my whole earth catalogue poem and my difficulties with it ) Another guy talked about a small press cooperative he is in up near Yosemite with 35 authors, Poetic Matric Press and he named a poet who does something interesting with Damascus I think (then I was remembering the excellent Damashq story from the Lesbian Steampunk book.) Someone up in the back asked about Denise Levertov and whether they knew each other. Diane said they were at readings together and she was very proper and without meaning to or knowing it she often upset Denise just by having some 4 letter words in a poem. also “she could have gone further”. I got excited and wondered what she meant there b/c I am fond of Levertov but get very frustrated by her and want to give her a shove and go “okay… now go further”. She wraps it up too fast and doesn’t get out of a certain comfort zone (though that is arrogant of me to say) What poetry would she recommend for kids? What poetry would be NOT for kids? (maybe Kaddish… i dunno…. lol) They’re just people! Just give them poetry! They come with all the equipment. (I agree) She said when she was little people read her shakespeare quite young and she read all the robert louis stevenson and poe things that kids usually read.

Best question from audience especially since asked by very young dude, or best response I guess, Do you ever get embarrassed by things you wrote when you were younger, you wrote it 40 years ago? “No. That’s who I was. I love those who-I-wases. (swoooon) I worked on it till I was pleased with it. It still stands. (reads a poem). I liked that person. She thought she was a lot tougher than she was, but she got along somehow. Take your own side. That’s the hardest job of a writer. ”

“Things are different because, I’m not sure about the because. There were very few of us writing. in 61… the newsletter me and Leroi Jones put out had 114 names across the country, poets, painters, dancers, choreographers. Lots of indie bookstores and they all wanted 5 copies. Libraries doing special collections of American Lit. Now it’s harder. Why? I don’t understand the use of cyberspace as a publishing medium. I don’t get the shape of it and how the poem is with it. You have a book, that’s the poem in space. You have a reading, that’s the poem in time. I don’t understand what shape I am working with when I’m in there and in what shape things are cut. ”

Afterwards I gave some books away and Diane was so mobbed it was hard to talk with her but I will write her a letter. I did hang about to say thank you and to give her a tiny blank book (made from scraps of Burn This Press books). A guy came up and told me about Exit Press and someone else told me about the Brown U. bookstore and who to write to to send books for their small press section. Someone else invited me to the Lunada readings at Galeria de la Raza, which sound great… All the Divafest plays and shows look fantastic – it is a celebration of women writers. There is a pirate play and one about Eleanor of Acquitaine and it’s going on all this month – take a look. Also Diane runs weekend workshops periodically – I went to one in around 2002 and heartily recommend it – “hanging out and writing” was exactly what we did.

I unfolded my bike and rode the 5 blocks back to my car which was down 6th across Market – legs shaking and my right foot unable to really do its thing correctly and my hip aching fit to bust – But feeling very free and scared in the good way & as if I were cloaked in secrets.Taking my overcaffeinated self and sinus infection back to bed now for utter collapse as the sudafed wears off.

A new tiny book from Burn This Press

Thanks to Your Printer at Mission and Cesar Chavez and the folding-and-stapling efforts of my fabulous interns, the new tiny book from Burn This Press is done. It’s my translation of a poem called “Mala piel”, Bad skin, and is by Chilean poet Carmen Berenguer.

A few other poems of hers that I translated years ago were supposed to appear in Five Fingers Review, but after many delays, the journal folded before being able to print that issue. Some of them will be coming out soon in the next issue of Specs – including the awesome poem about the Chilean flag with difficult typography that makes the poem look like the flag. It’s a complicatedly gendered, visceral stance, or experience, of national identity under oppression.

I had to reprint the book and its covers, as I had a page order error in the first batch, and couldn’t stand the light green covers, and the first printer put the rough side of the cover facing inwards instead of putting the textured roughness on the outside. So I went back to Kelly Paper, a fantastic paper store, and got a supply of interesting cover stock for the next few books, going with a warm brown “Kraft” cardstock and paper with tiny random flecks.

Part of the point of my tiny book design was setting it up so I can print copies anytime at home from my laser printer. But once I realized I needed at least 250 copies, it seemed best to go with a copy shop, bringing my own paper.

So anyway, I went to pick up my fabulous Intern, Ellie, from high school and had to chase her down with text messages. She demanded to be taken to the drugstore to meet her “husband” who was going to mock-propose to her with Ring-Pops but I counter-proposed that we go immediately to my cafe haunt, The Grind, get some coffee and start working on assembling the books, and the Ring-Pop Bearer could meet us there. I had all my prints and supplies in two cardboard boxes — aside from the paper, I have a little kit with saddle stapler, bone folder, extra staples, tape, stickers, return address labels, pens, and scissors. I especially love bone folders because they feel so slippery and solid and strong, and it’s neat to think it’s a special tool. My mistake was in not having more than one bone folder. I wore out my thumbnail doing creases! Ellie’s friend then turned up with the ringpops and a half gallon of Rocky Road ice cream, wearing a Hello Kitty hat with built-in pigtails.

Ring pop proposal

After he proposed, I informed him that he was hired. We ate the ice cream and folded books for the next couple of hours and had a great time gossiping. I told them they might not want to read the poem because it was “inappropriate” which is what the kids say when they want to describe the generation over them being embarrassing.

It was an especially nice way for a book to come into the world. Thanks very much to Ellie and Ubaldo for the help and entertainment!

News from Burn This Press

Some of you may already have a copy of my first printing of Daylighting, a long poem in a tiny book, published under the Burn This Press imprint in January. I mailed out about 80 of them, gave away more, and now have done another batch. They are small square books covered in cardstock, with nothing fancy but the linen-textured paper.

It was exciting to change the name of my press and re-think how to do things. The new books will be poetry, translations, and perhaps some rants, manifestos, or whatever feminist or political/cultural/technical polemics come my way.

Plus, what could be more inspiring than Yet Another OMFG WordPress Install?! Also, I made stickers extremely cheaply from an online address label service !


I tried to make the switch from pasteup to printout, and might go a bit further with that process now that I have Cheap Impostor, which is shareware that does imposition. You know that thing where you do a zine, and you have to make a mockup to plan out what pages go where in your xeroxable originals so that you can fold the zine correctly, and the double sided copies match up? I never knew that was called “imposition”, but it is, and if you search on that, you can find awesome software that takes a PDF and makes your zine or book with signatures of however many pages you like.

“Daylighting” is a poem about the imaginary and real, historical, past, and future of one of San Francisco’s buried streams, Islais Creek. It will turn you inside out! I’ve read it in public a couple of times now. How happy it made me! People laughed with pure outrage and disbelief!

Islais Creek Promenade

My book for March is Bad skin, my translation of Carmen Berenguer’s “Mala piel“. The book is still tiny, but includes the original poem in Spanish, my translation on facing pages, and some notes on the translation as well as the history of Chilean indigenous ocean-going people and on ecriture feminine. I also added in some illustrations taken from historical texts about the Alcalufe people and their boats. The poem has interesting political dimensions but what you will notice about it first is that it’s a cataloguing poem, one of those poems that describes all the parts of a woman’s body. Rather than driveling on about someone’s alabaster brow and eyes like stars, Mala piel gets realy, really into the skin; pores, spots, hairiness, texture, crinkliness, tightness, stretchmarks, wrinkles, well, everything. It’s incredibly down and dirty. It may have actually made me blush more than once. I also felt a deep sense of happiness at it, as I thought of my own Bad Skin and all it means. How about yours?

It was an extremely difficult poem to translate, and I’m sure the translation has heinous errors of judgement and misunderstandings. I tried to convey various layers of meaning, neologisms, changed words, and general feminist awesomeness as well as the deep meanings I felt were there. Many are missing! Corrections, illuminations, explanations, and arguments are welcome, as always.

March book

Carmen was very patient with my questions. Take a look at her Facebook fan page and give her a thumbs up.

I’m going to do the next book for April soon, and lay it out for final printing in Cheap Impostor.

After that I plan on printing up my epic poem about the utopian technohippies of California, “Whole Earth Catalog”, and then “Companion to the Doctor” which is about women in science fiction television shows. I say that recklessly, as neither of those are finished. No pressure!

Then translations of either two to three short poems also by Carmen Berenguer, or “Carta de viaje” by Elvira Hernandez, or something else to be determined. My hope is for smallness and density, tiny portable books, not great lumps of intimidating virtue, but mindblowing awesomeness – like carrying a speck of antimatter around with you in your pocket. Poetry is quite pointless these days in the U.S.. It’s so smug. Or it’s song lyrics, which are great, but… Maybe you need a little mind-bending dose, a reminder that language is a weird powerful beast with political power. Oh, language! And I don’t mean L=A-N=G either, I mean the sort of thing you wrap your tongue around. Carry a poem with you to look at!

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